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Intelligent Design: A Product of Science Denialism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sciences
Wordcount: 1986 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 Intelligent design is the notion that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not intelligent design is a science. In addition to this controversy, many philosophers also have different criteria with which they define what it means for a theory to be scientific and what it means for a theory to be unscientific. In the scientific community, this is termed demarcation criteria. Rudolph Carnap was one of the first philosophers to point out the need for some demarcation criteria. Carnap proposed a criteria called Verificationism – a theory is scientific if it is in principle, verifiable by observation and experiments either directly or indirectly. Verificationism has been widely used as an argument against intelligent design [3]. However, a philosopher named Karl Popper refuted Verificationism on the basis that confirming instances can be found even for clearly unscientific theories [4]. I agree that intelligent design is not a science however, I believe it’s not because it is not testable, but rather because it is a product of science denialism – theories with objectives that are driven by a desire to fight down some scientific theory or branch of science – which makes it a pseudoscience [1]. I also agree that both intelligent design and evolution are not testable theories but in this paper, I will be discussing factors that make intelligent design pseudoscientific. 

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 Looking closely at the origin of Intelligent design, it seems to defy the very essence of science – to continuously seek knowledge and truth of the world. Scientists spend their lives trying to make sense of the external world and as they encounter anomalies or unpredicted events, they spend time trying to explain or understand these events. Intelligent design seems to have taken the lazy approach towards science that stunts further research and development. It allows for any unexpected or absurd event to be easily explained by chucking it up to an intelligent entity. Intelligent design originated in USA in response to Darwin’s theory of evolution and as an opposition to it being taught in public schools [2]. The theory of evolution is the notion that all life descended from a common ancestor and has evolved over time through the process of natural selection – organisms that are able to adapt to their environment survive and end up reproducing [5]. As part of their fight for Intelligent design to be taught in public schools, defenders of Intelligent design try as much as possible to mimic what they think a scientific theory should sound like by avoiding using the word “God” but rather using words like “designer” [2]. This shows that its origin is not purely scientific and is heavily influenced by social factors.

 A significant part of David Bloor’s philosophy surrounded his belief that theories, methods and evidence are all social constructs. This means that the process of scientific change, a transition from one accepted theory to another or from one employed method to another, is shaped by a variety of social factors such as politics, psychology and religion. That is, optimistic philosophers are bound to create optimistic theories and conservative philosophers are bound to create conservative theories [6]. Defenders of Intelligent design are a perfect demonstration of Bloor’s theory as their objectives have been made out to be political and slightly religious, seeing as how they rigorously fought against evolution being taught in public schools. Intelligent design originated as a result of a feud between two communities; those who support evolutionary science and those who do not. It is also undeniable that majority of the defenders of intelligent design are religious; evolutionary science does not align with a good number of religions, including Christianity. It is obvious why scientists with religious backgrounds would be against evolution and also oppose to it being taught in public schools. If a theory goes against your religious beliefs, it is difficult to agree with it. However, these scientists could not just refute the teaching of evolutionary science in school and provide no alternative option; evolutionary science was, at the time, the closest or best theory in existence that explained the origin of life. This is why they decided to create an alternative theory; intelligent design. This also shows that intelligent design did not originate from a pure intention to discover more about the world, as any scientific theory should, but did so as a response to a theory that was not accepted.

 It seems like the only objective of Intelligent design defenders is to discredit evolutionary science by drawing attention to gaps, and in doing so, they also fail to provide any novel predictions to explain these gaps. This attitude prevents any further research or development on this topic. An argument against evolutionary science made by defenders of intelligent design states that “complex structures could not have evolved by natural selection because the intermediate forms containing only some of the parts would not have been adaptive” [2]. These arguments and gaps brought to light by intelligent design defenders beg the question – where do we draw the line between what can be explained and what needs an intelligent designer? Are they implying that the world can only be knowable by this intelligent entity and as such, scientists should not even bother trying? Also, refuting evidence has been brought up against intelligent design arguments against evolutionary science. Evolutionists were able to find evidence such as fossils, that were indeed adaptive, thus falsifying their argument. In doing so, evolutionists succeeded in explaining some of the biological complexities that Intelligent design defenders claimed were unexplainable [2]. This shows more clearly how intelligent design is a classic case of science denialism.

 Using a sample list of a multi-criterial approach to demarcation from Stanford’s article on Science and Pseudoscience, Intelligent design falls into the category of pseudoscience. There are seven criteria that can be used in combination to identify a pseudoscience and intelligent design aligns with four out of the seven criteria. The first criterion is “belief in authority”. The whole premise of intelligent design is the belief that the world is too complex for events to occur randomly, and that, it has to have been designed by an intelligent designer. Hence, they believe in an authority that has a special ability to design the complexities of the world. The second criterion is “handpicked examples”. This is evident in their identification of certain “gaps” in evolutionary science that are apparently too complex to be explained by scientists. The third criterion is “disregard of refuting information”. There has been evidence brought forward by evolutionists (adaptive fossils) that has been disregarded by defenders of Intelligent design. This evidence has also been disregarded without any replacement or novel predictions and this brings me to the fourth criterion – “explanations are abandoned without replacement”. From the criteria listed above, we can see more clearly how intelligent design is a pseudoscience [1].

 If we look at scientists and their response to anomalies in their theories, we can conclude that scientists hardly abandon their theories in the case of an anomaly. When there are gaps in theories, that does not necessarily mean those theories have been falsified; scientists resort to puzzle-solving in order to design new experiments and gather new evidence in an attempt to explain the anomaly. This ensures that science is constantly evolving and progressing be it in a rational or irrational fashion. However, intelligent design is a notion that does not allow for the development of novel predictions and seems to have remained dormant over the years, despite there being anomalies to the theory. It seems like its defenders aren’t determined to find answers to those anomalies, like any scientist normally would [2].

 In conclusion, Intelligent design is not testable and neither is evolution; however, verificationism as a criterion for demarcation has been refuted due to the fact that confirming instances can be found for evidently unscientific theories. Intelligent design originated due to certain social factors such as politics and religion which need to be taken into consideration. A major objective of its defenders is to discredit evolutionary science which bring into question the true motives of the theory. Intelligent design also aligns with four of the multi-criterial approaches to identify pseudoscience greatly suggests that it is indeed a pseudoscience. Defenders of intelligent design also do not seem to be in favor of any kind of scientific progress as they seem to only dispute or identify gaps in theories without suggesting any replacements. This puts a halt on any further research or scientific development. This shows that the theory goes against the essence of science which is to continually acquire knowledge of the world. Any true scientist who is curious about obtaining more knowledge about the world should be against intelligent design. It is a lazy and comfortable approach towards science and prevents any innovation from taking place. A widely known attribute of science is that it is constantly changing and progressing – towards truth or untruth, rationally or irrationally; science is not stagnant. However, that is not the case with intelligent design. All the above points lead to the conclusion that intelligent design is a pseudoscience created as a result of science denialism.



[1] Hansson, S. O. (2017, April 11). Science and Pseudo-Science. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/#MulCriApp

[2] Dixon, T. (2009). Science and religion: A very short introduction. Cambridge: International Society for Science and Religion.

[3] Hakob Barseghyan, HPS250 Lecture 4: Logical Positivism.

Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://onedrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=FC022108520A281D!21131&ithint=file%2cpptx&app=PowerPoint&authkey=!AGuWWVLpQfump98

[4] Hakob Barseghyan, HPS250 Lecture 5: Karl Popper.

Retrieved November 30, 2018 from https://onedrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=FC022108520A281D!21130&ithint=file%2cpptx&app=PowerPoint&authkey=!AMPBclRltaXLYgI

[5] Britannica, T. E. (2018, January 31). Natural selection. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.britannica.com/science/natural-selection

[6] Hakob Barseghyan, HPS250 Lecture 8: Paul Feyerabend.

Retrieved November 30, 2018 from https://onedrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=FC022108520A281D!21018&ithint=file%2cpptx&app=PowerPoint&authkey=!ADK70caZJnUNBdM


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